QUOTE OF THE DAY…. The Associated Press reported today on the results of its new national poll, the results of which were fairly interesting. Support for the Republicans’ tax plan, for example, was higher (53%) than I’ve seen in most recently polling, and support for repealing the Affordable Care Act was pretty low (39%).
But what stood out for me wasn’t the data, but rather, one of the follow-up comments made by a voter who participated in the AP poll.
“I think everybody wants change,” said Steven Lamb, 60, a Tennessee state government worker in Nashville who voted Republican last week despite opposing the party’s stance on tax cuts and health care. “I’m tired of what’s going on, and the only way to do it is to make a change.”
I find this fascinating, in part because of the way in which this quote serves as a reminder that voting behavior isn’t necessarily rational.
Going into the midterm elections, I lost track of how many times I saw national polls showing Democrats more popular than Republicans, but Republicans nevertheless leading Democrats at the same time. Hell, we saw another one today. Even in the exit polls gauging the attitudes of those who actually showed up on Election Day, voters conceded they liked Democrats more than they like Republicans.
This, on the day we saw a GOP “wave” that washed away the Democrats’ House majority.
It’s easy to find this puzzling, but look at Mr. Lamb’s quote again. I don’t know the man, but based on what he told the AP, he disagrees with Republicans on some of the biggest issues of the day but voted for them anyway. Why? Because he’s unsatisfied with the status quo. Wouldn’t voting for the party that’s wrong about the major issues of the day make matters worse? Perhaps, but, again, voting isn’t necessarily rational. This voter in Tennessee knows he doesn’t like what he sees, and knows Democrats are in the majority, so it at least contributed to him backing the party he already disagrees with.
My point, just to be clear, isn’t to pick on Steven Lamb. On the contrary, my point is that his quote tells us quite a bit. Obviously this is just one man who shared his thoughts with a pollster, but I suspect his approach was pretty common this year — unsatisfied voters are inclined to go with the other team.
For all the talk about mandates, agendas, and policy referenda, I think “I’m tired of what’s going on” summarizes pretty well what happened in 2010. If congressional Republicans see this as some sort of wholesale embrace of a far-right agenda, they’re making a mistake. If Democrats see this as evidence that they should crawl into a hole and stop fighting for good ideas, they’re wrong, too.
Postscript: The same poll, by the way, found that two-thirds of Americans support Senate ratification of the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia (New START), with broad support across parties and ideologies. If we’re being intellectually honest about this, it’s probably fair to say the poll doesn’t mean much, since most the country probably hasn’t heard much about the treaty, but as proponents try to rally support, a strong showing in the poll can’t hurt.